Dive Brief:

  • Despite efforts to desegregate schools, “substantial” segregation often still takes place at the classroom level, according to a report from the National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research. The study compares the patterns of white/black segregation with those between white and Hispanic students in the 4th, 7th and 10th grades in North Carolina.
  • Researchers said that Wake County, which is praised for its efforts to balance schools by socioeconomic status, had some of the most segregated 7th- and 10th-grade classrooms in the state. Additionally, they found that more racially and ethnically diverse schools were more likely to be segregated. 
  • The study also shows significantly higher segregation at the classroom level between white and Hispanic students than between white and black students, reflecting a high degree of in-school segregation of Hispanics. Black and Hispanic students were also less likely to be enrolled in advanced classes.

Dive Insight:

Desegregating schools is a tricky task, but the best source for a solution may be the ultimate stakeholders: the students. Faced with similar issues in 2019, a group of 500 teenagers in Trenton, New Jersey, got together to tackle segregation and ease racial divisions in the public school system. Like adults, they disagreed along the way.

Though segregation is illegal, New Jersey is the sixth-most segregated state in the nation for black students and seventh for Latino students. Students came up with the idea of having districts redraw boundaries to make schools more diverse. But redistricting can raise school choice issues, and some students opposed this idea on the grounds that most families want to keep their children in their local school.

Another issue is that, in some towns, the number of Hispanic and black residents is on the rise while whites are moving away, leading to schools with diverse student populations but with fewer white students. But white and non-white students who attended the same schools in 2000 were more likely to attend separate schools in 2015 in Charlotte-Mecklenberg, North Carolina; Indianapolis, Indiana; Hawaii; Sacramento, California; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and Detroit, according to the National Center study. On the other hand, the converse is true in cities where more white students have moved to town.

A report from The Civil Rights Project found that 65 years after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision, racial segregation persists in schools. White students represent less than half of the nation’s school population at 48.4%, Latinos make up 26.3%, black students make up 15.2% and Asians make up 5.5%. The percent of intensely segregated minority schools, however, has more than tripled since 1988.

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